Update on the latest religion news

RELIGION IN LATIN AMERICA

Poll: Latin America Catholics steadily leave faith

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A survey conducted in 18 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico finds that those born into Roman Catholic families are increasingly leaving the faith for Protestant churches.

According to Washington-based Pew Research Center, Latin America still has about 425 million Catholics, or 40 percent of adherents worldwide. Eighty-four percent of adults in the report say they were raised Catholic, but only 69 percent currently identify as such. At the same time, Protestants have gained members.

About one in 10 were raised Protestant, but nearly one in five now call themselves Protestant. About 4 percent report they were raised with no religion, but 8 percent say they have no tie to any faith.

Former Catholics who have embraced Protestantism most frequently cited a desire for a personal connection with God for leaving their original faith. Others said they wanted a different style of worship or a church that helps its members more.

The most Catholic countries were Mexico, with 81 percent Catholics and 9 percent Protestants, and Paraguay, with 89 percent Catholics and 7 percent Protestants. Uruguay was most secular, with 37 percent of people saying they were atheist or agnostic or had no religious affiliation.

Sound:

338-a-08-(Neha Sahgal (NAY’-hah SAY’-guhl), researcher, Pew Research Center, in AP interview)-“they are Catholic”-Pew Research Center researcher Neha Sahgal says a shrinking but continuing majority is Catholic in Latin America. (13 Nov 2014)

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341-a-10-(Neha Sahgal (NAY’-hah SAY’-guhl), researcher, Pew Rsearch Center, in AP interview)-“face to face”-Pew Research Center researcher Neha Sahgal says the survey was extensive. (13 Nov 2014)

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339-a-12-(Neha Sahgal (NAY’-hah SAY’-guhl), researcher, Pew Rsearch Center, in AP interview)-“a single lifetime”-Pew Research Center researcher Neha Sahgal says there has been a signicatant shift toward Protestantism. (13 Nov 2014)

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340-a-06-(Neha Sahgal (NAY’-hah SAY’-guhl), researcher, Pew Rsearch Center, in AP interview)-“connection with God”-Pew Research Center researcher Neha Sahgal says those who switched were asked why they left. (13 Nov 2014)

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CLERGY-TAX FREE HOUSING

Appeals court dismisses clergy housing lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal appeals court has thrown out a challenge to the law that gives clergy tax-free housing allowances.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation lacked standing, specifically that it suffered no harm from the law.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, one of the foundation co-presidents, called the ruling cowardly, given that the court dismissed it without ruling on the merits. She said the court wanted to get rid of what she calls “a hot potato.”

The attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy group, called the ruling a victory for clergy and churches. Erick Stanley filed a friend-of-the court brief on behalf of 600 churches. He said the housing allowance comes from church money, not public funds. He says Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit was actually targeting religion in general.

Gaylor says the issue isn’t going away, and neither is her group.

Sound:

266-a-06-(Erick Stanley, senior legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, in AP interview)-“any direct harm”-Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley says the court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing. Updated: 11/13/2014-07:36:00 PM ET (13 Nov 2014)

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269-a-05-(Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, in AP interview)-“of this country”-Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley says the lawsuit was readily against religion in general. Updated: 11/13/2014-07:36:00 PM ET (13 Nov 2014)

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267-a-12-(Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, in AP interview)-“across the country”-Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley says Freedom From Religion was targeting pastors in the litigation. Updated: 11/13/2014-07:36:00 PM ET (13 Nov 2014)

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270-a-07-(Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, Freedom From Religion Roundation, in AP interview)-“have no standing”-Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor says the court ducked deciding the case on its mertis. (13 Nov 2014)

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271-a-06-(Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, Freedom From Religion Roundation, in AP interview)-“about this issue”-Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor says her group is disppointed with the ruling. (13 Nov 2014)

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272-a-14-(Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, Freedom From Religion Roundation, in AP interview)-“by the government”-Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor says her husband, the group’s co-president, is harmed by the court’s ruling despite the ruling that he wasn’t. (13 Nov 2014)

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268-a-10-(Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, in AP interview)-“allowance for decades”-Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley says his group filed a friend-of-the-court brief. (13 Nov 2014)

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ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

US: Commitments made to reduce Jerusalem tensions

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry says Israel, Jordan and Palestinian leader Mahmound Abbas have committed to a series of “specific and practical” steps to reduce spiraling tensions over Jerusalem holy sites.

Kerry, during a visit to Jordan, also said the Palestinians have pledged to curb incitement and violence. Kerry didn’t provide any details about the agreements.

Jordan is one of just two Arab countries at peace with Israel and serves as the custodian of the Muslim holy sites of Jerusalem and with significant influence in the West Bank. Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel last week to protest an Israeli crackdown on protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque.

The mosque is located at the disputed site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Long-simmering tensions have boiled over into violent demonstrations and deadly Palestinian attacks that have killed six people in recent weeks.

Sound:

282-a-11-(U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with reporters)-“implement these steps”-Secretary of State John Kerry says Israel’s leader has agreed to a series of steps to reduce tensions at holy sites in Jerusalem. (13 Nov 2014)

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281-a-12-(U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with reporters)-“change the climate”-Secretary of State John Kerry says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated his committment to help stem recent violence in Jerusalem over holy sites. (13 Nov 2014)

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IRAQ-CHRISTIAN MILITIA

Iraq Christians guard village taken from IS group

BAKUFA, Iraq (AP) — A mostly-Christian hamlet about 240 miles north of Baghdad that was overrun by Islamic State and retaken by Kurdish forces is now patrolled by a Christian militia.

Most of the residents of Bakufa are Christian Assyrians. Its militia, set up by Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga, consists of 70 volunteers. It’s hoped that the security will allow the return of families that fled.

The Assyrians, an indigenous Christian group in Iraq descendant from the ancient Mesopotamians, are a Semitic people who speak an eastern Aramaic dialect. Along with the Chaldeans, they make up the largest Christian group in Iraq.

UNITED NATIONS-POPE FRANCIS

Vatican rep: 2015 ‘ideal time’ for pope NY visit

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations has strongly hinted that Pope Francis could visit New York next year to address world leaders at the General Assembly.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza says that the coming 70th anniversary of the world body would be “the ideal time.”

Auza, the permanent observer of the Holy See, also told The Associated Press that “if he (Francis) comes to Philadelphia, he will come to New York.”

The pope in August confirmed that he wants to visit the United States in 2015 and that he’d like to go to Philadelphia for a family rally. The pope added that he’s also been invited by President Barack Obama and Congress and by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

CHURCH ABUSE

Priest convicted of raping boy at summer camp

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — A retired Roman Catholic priest faces sentencing next month in Massachusetts, after being found guilty of repeatedly raping a young boy in the 1980s at a Massachusetts summer camp operated by his religious order.

The Rev. Richard McCormick was convicted in Lawrence Superior Court of five counts of child rape that prosecutors said occurred between 1981 and 1982 at the now-defunct Salesian Brothers’ Sacred Heart retreat center in Ipswich. The Salem News reports the victim, now 44, wept in court as the verdicts were read and said outside court he felt vindicated.

McCormick’s attorney said in his closing arguments that his client’s accuser was motivated by money and the state had no evidence McCormick committed the crimes. The prosecution called the case a “heinous crime.”

HOME INVASION-KOSHER DIET

Condemned inmate on food strike over kosher diet

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut inmate awaiting execution for his role in the killings of a woman and her two daughters during a violent home invasion says he is refusing to eat prison food that he believes is not kosher.

Steven Hayes sued the Department of Correction in August, alleging it would not serve him a kosher diet. He filed an amended complaint on Nov. 7, which was made public this week. He says he has suffered “extreme weight loss.”

Hayes and another man were sentenced to die for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at the family’s home in Cheshire. The victims were tied up, two of them were sexually assaulted and their bodies were found after the home was set on fire. Hawke-Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit, was severely beaten but survived.

VATICAN-HOMELESS-SHOWERS

Vatican installing showers for homeless

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Homeless people around the Vatican are getting more than just handouts from charitable passers-by. They’re getting a shower.

The pope’s chief alms-giver, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski (kry-YEHF’-skee) says three showers will be installed in the public restrooms off Bernini’s Colonnade in St. Peter’s Square to cater to homeless men and women.

Krajewski, whose small acts of charity in Francis’ name are well known, told La Stampa’s Vatican Insider website that he came up with the idea after meeting a homeless man named Franco while coming home from confession one day.

Krajewski said he offered to take Franco to dinner after learning it was his 50th birthday, but he declined because of his stench.